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I want to create a music rhythm game, where any user can load the "map" for a song from the game server, if they have a song's sound file in their own library. Each "song map" contains information about its rhythm structure (for the game to interpret) but doesn't include any sound.

I want to monetise the game (through advertising or cosmetic items), but I don't intend to sell any music or song maps.

Do I need to pay any money to artists in this case?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you confirm, do you intend to implement any player sharing features? eg. i generate a level with a song in my library, and then my friend can play it (with me or separately) even though they don't have that song themselves? In a case like that your game is acting as a music distribution platform so things get much more complicated than if the game is acting as an elaborate visualiser. Even in the single-player case, players uploading Let's Play videos could draw additional scrutiny from rights-holders. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Sep 5, 2016 at 11:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory a "maps" can be created by me or any other user in the internet. After this it can be loaded to some remote server. Any other user in the internet can download it from there and use it in the game for free. Every map contains name of artist and name of original song. Social network sharing - have no idea about it at now. \$\endgroup\$
    – vctr
    Sep 6, 2016 at 9:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ultimately, not even a lawyer can answer this question to the absolute. The only way to know for absolute sure is to actually have the potential party you might be ripping off sue you, and have the verdict decided on by a judge or jury (depending on country, which may also greatly influence the resulting answer). You do not even need to have a strong case to sue someone. In some locales, you simply need to have the willpower and funds/legal ability to sue someone (if your a lawyer, you wont need to pay a lawyer, but there will be other costs). \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnemlock
    Sep 6, 2016 at 10:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ This also seems like a question for the legal exchange. Your asking a legal question about the use of songs, and I highly doubt the intention of using it in a game will have any particular effect on the actual answer, unless you fall into a weird grey area where your ripping off a music publisher who already has an exclusive with another game developer, and thus only really wants to go after you to make their exclusive game developer happy. Then again, that could all be irrelevant. Who knows. I am a game developer, not a lawyer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnemlock
    Sep 6, 2016 at 10:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ A way you could probably avoid it, is that you supply maps for songs that you got the permission to use, and let the game be "modded". Users will figure out how to add new songs/maps and eventually some sharing networks will rise. Don't host any of these shared on your sites/forums, though. In any case, consult a lawyer :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Sep 6, 2016 at 11:49

1 Answer 1

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Most users on this site, including myself, are not lawyers, so we are not able to give you legal advice. The best way to be sure is to consult a lawyer.

From the system you describe, it sounds like an artist or someone with the distribution rights to a song could claim that you are making unauthorized use of their identity/intellectual property, just for using the name of the artist & song. They might be able to claim you are using this property commercially (ie. you expect to attract more players, and more ad views, by using artists' names & song titles in shared maps than you would if the maps were based solely on your own IP).

Whether or not these claims would hold up in court is hard to say. Just keep in mind that you can be legally in the right and still be unable to afford defending against a lawsuit in court.

I think there's enough cause for concern here that you should definitely consult a lawyer before proceeding.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure why this has been downvoted, this seems to be a good answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Sep 6, 2016 at 12:16

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